UVA building report on Fontaine, Center for Politics: Does Area B still exist?

The rest of today’s newsletter uses the March 14 meeting of the Charlottesville Planning Commission as its primary source material. There’s a lot to go through.

The Commission got an update from Bill Palmer, their non-voting representative from the Office of the University of Virginia Architect. The terms of the 1986 three-party agreement on planning state that this position is to exist. (read the document)

“We have a number of large projects going on,” Palmer said.

All of those projects are planned by the Office of the Architect, which is overseen by a Master Planning Council. While these meetings are not public, the presentations are made available to the public. That Three Party Agreement requires a member from both the Albemarle and Charlottesville Planning Commissions. 

The Three-Party Agreement from 1986 set up the presence of Albemarle and Charlottesville officials on UVA planning groups, and vice versa. (read the document)

Major construction is underway at the moment on the Ivy Road corridor with a new hotel and convention center, the Karsh Institute for Democracy, and the School of Data Science all at various stages of the building process. All of these were anticipated in plans, which are all available on the Architect’s website

But it is good to hear directly from a member of the office. 

“The McIntire School is doing an expansion onto Cobb Hall over by Brandon Avenue, that area and JPA, as well as the athletics area, there’s a new athletics building for Olympic sports but before that as football operations building,” Palmer said.

But the impact of what the University of Virginia decides to do isn’t limited to Charlottesville. Palmer also reported on the Board of Visitors recent first step in approving a major transformation coming to the Fontaine Research Park in Albemarle County. 

“Site and design guidelines, which is kind of the first step in the design process for capital projects at UVA, were approved for a number of projects at Fontaine to kind of enable to the biotech institute that was announced for that site,” Palmer said. 

The next paragraph comes from a story I wrote on March 3

Paul and Dianne Manning donated $100 million to UVA for the institute, which will be built on what is now a surface parking lot at Fontaine and next to existing buildings used for biotechnology research. This is part of a master plan adopted by the Board of Visitors in September 2018. 

“And then there was another concept site design guidelines approved for the Center for Politics which is actually in the county off of Old Ivy Road,” Palmer said. 

Area B map from January 2012 when the PACC and PACC-Tech meetings were open to the public 

A map in the Three Party Agreement from 1986 puts this in what’s known as Area B. 

“Area B includes land which lies at the boundaries of or between the University and either the City or the County and on which the activities of any or all three of the parties might have an effect,” reads the agreement.

While the agreement is in effect, note that neither Palmer nor anyone continue to use the phrase Area B. There used to be a public body called the Planning and Coordination Council that met to discuss Area B issues openly, but City Council and the Albemarle Board of Supervisors voted to disband it in late 2019. 

But the plans themselves are public. The Center for Politics project is perhaps the first step toward implementing the Ivy Gardens Master Plan, which went before the Board of Visitors in June 2021. The Center will be renovated in place  and will anchor one half of a new central green. 

In terms of infrastructure, a very important fact is the new driveway for the Center for Politics will connect to Leonard Sandridge Drive, and not Old Ivy Road. Concern over the ability of Old Ivy Road to handle existing traffic led the Albemarle Planning Commission to recommend denial of a rezoning for 525 units to the west of Ivy Gardens. However, the Board of Supervisors approved the project earlier this month after members expressed confidence in transportation solutions.

The Commission didn’t hear any of that, though. Planning Commissioner Hosea Mitchel was absent this week, so he could not report from a recent meeting of the Land Use and Environmental Planning Committee. That’s the closed door group where UVA, Charlottesville, and Albemarle staff exchange information that is not yet required to be publicly available. 

“Hosea if he was here would probably recount the LUEPC meeting that he attended where Fontaine is going to be kind of ground zero for a lot of projects coming up with us, the city and their Smart Scale project as well as some VDOT [and] county projects as well,” Palmer said. “There’s going to be a lot going on there.”

How is the public to know any of this? If this newsletter didn’t exist, how would you know any of this information? How would you know that the city’s Fontaine Avenue Streetscape project has been delayed and that the city requested (and received) additional funding from the Commonwealth Transportation Board? (see that story ) 

Anyway, become a paid subscriber so I can continue to piece the pieces together. 

A map from a February 17 presentation made behind closed doors about infrastructure projects underway at the Fontaine Research Park (Credit: Land Use and Environmental Planning Committee)

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the March 18, 2023 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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